BA Books & Authors on the Web – May 6, 2016

Cover ArtMichael Allen and Scott Swain, as editors of Zondervan’s Common Places blog, interviewed James K. A. Smith about his Cultural Liturgies series.

“I’m not suggesting we need less thinking; my point is that we need more than thinking. And we need to think carefully about the limits of thought (I tried to tease this out in the opening of Imagining, with a hat tip to Proust). That’s not a paradox; that’s intellectual honesty.”

Defending Substitution by Simon Gathercole, and Galatians by Peter Oakes, appeared in the latest Regent’s Review.

On Up For Debate! Myron Bradley Penner, author of The End of Apologetics, discussed his arguments against apologetics with William Lane Craig.

Matthew Schlimm was interviewed at On Script about his recent book, This Strange and Sacred Scripture.

BA Books & Authors on the Web – September 25, 2015

Cover ArtThe Pastor as Public Theologian, By Kevin Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan, was reviewed by Dave Jenkins at Servants of Grace.

“This is an excellent book, one that should be read by Bible college and seminary students preparing for ministry. This book would also be good for new pastors to read to learn more about the work they’ve been entrusted with. I highly recommend this book and believe it will help new and seasoned pastors to learn more about the important conversation that is occurring about pastor ministry and how it is a theological office.”

The Pastor as Public Theologian was also reviewed by Andrew Spencer at Ethics and Culture.

Matthew Schlimm’s This Strange and Sacred Scripture was reviewed at The Presbyterian Outlook.

Bob on Books reviewed Defending Substitution by Simon Gathercole.

 

BA Books & Authors on the Web – September 18, 2015

Cover ArtGuy Davies, at Exiled Preacher, reviewed The Pastor as Public Theologian by Kevin Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan.

“I’d recommend that all aspiring and serving pastors give this book a thoughtful and prayerful read. If the pastor as public theologian is a lost vision, this well written and passionately argued book certainly makes a grand attempt at reclaiming it.

Anything that helps pastors to minister what is in Christ more effectively must be good for us, the people whom we have been called to serve, and the world that so desperately needs to hear the life-transforming message of the gospel.”

At Panorama of a Book Saint, Conrade Yap reviewed Matthew Schlimm’s This Strange and Sacred Scripture.

Cover ArtScot McKnight, at Jesus Creed, discussed Andrew McGowan’s treatment of the Eucharist in Ancient Christian Worship.

“Banquets, a common term for early Christian meals, were common: ‘Groups bound by kinship and by professional, social, religious, or ethnic ties celebrated such meals together to create and express their identity and their beliefs when need or opportunity for celebration arose.’”

Austin McCann reviewed Youth Ministry in the 21st Century, edited by Chap Clark.

BA Books & Authors on the Web – July 24, 2015

Cover ArtAt The Jesus Blog, Chris Keith shared two recent reviews of his Jesus against the Scribal Elite as well as the latest news about a symposium interacting with his book.

“Keith begins with the sources as they are, and explains the conflicting memories regarding Jesus’ scribal literacy from the fact that a scribal-illiterate member of the manual-labour class presumed to function as an authoritative teacher. Keith argues persuasively that this in itself would have been sufficient to lead to all sorts of questions and conclusions about his scribal-literacy and authority, and to bring him into direct conflict with the scribal elite.”

Lindsay Kennedy, at My Digital Seminary, reviewed Simon Gathercole’s Defending Substitution.

At Thoughts, Prayers & Songs, James reviewed Reading Barth with Charity by George Hunsinger.

“An important scholarly book for clarifying Barth’s theology. No doubt the revisionists named by Hunsinger will make a response which will further the debate.”

Matthew Schlimm’s This Strange and Sacred Scripture was reviewed at Brave Daily.

 

BA Books & Authors on the Web – July 17, 2015

Cover ArtBeginning Biblical Hebrew, by John Cook and Robert Holmstedt, was reviewed by Jesse Scheumann at Books at a Glance.

“I praise Cook and Holmstedt for producing a methodologically rigorous grammar that does many unique things to make Hebrew come alive for students. Surely, BBH will help the whole field take a step forward in more effectively teaching Hebrew to the next generation.”

Also at Books at a Glance, a helpful summary of G. K. Beale’s Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament.

Jennifer Guo reviewed Simon Gathercole’s Defending Substitution.

“An excellent introduction to some of the scholarly debate surrounding the atonement and provides a brief and accessible exegetical defense of substitutionary atonement through two Pauline texts. It’s a great book for laity with academic interest in soteriology as well as beginning Bible college or seminary students.”

This Strange and Sacred Scripture by Matthew Schlimm, and The Old Testament and Ethics, edited by Joel Green and Jacqueline Lapsely, were reviewed at Interpreting Scripture.

Lindsay Kennedy, at My Digital Seminary, reviewed J. Richard Middleton’s A New Heaven and a New Earth.

“The label ‘game changer’ should not be thrown around hastily, however I believe A New Heaven and a New Earth has the potential to be this very thing for many Christians today.”

Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament, by Stanley Porter, was reviewed by Conrade Yap at Panorama of a Book Saint.

 

The Scandal of Election

Today we are pleased to share the latest post in our weekly series, Beyond the Book. This month Matthew Schlimm will be discussing how we can approach the Old Testament as a friend in faith, in spite of its strangeness.

*Also, as part of this series we are giving away three copies of This Strange and Sacred Scripture. The winners will be announced at the end of the month, and you can enter here.*

——–

If I had more time and space, I would have tackled the scandal of election in This Strange and Sacred Scripture. Time and again, the Bible says that God chose Israel out of all the people of the earth. As God tells the Israelites at Mt. Sinai, “You shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation” (Exod. 19:5-6 NRSV).

To many of us, that sounds unfair. Why didn’t God treat everyone equally? Aren’t we all treasured? Are we really supposed to believe that God plays favorites?

I’m not sure any answer to these questions will ever be completely satisfactory. There’s something scandalous about God’s giving Israel a special place among the nations. Nothing can change that. However, by studying election in the Old Testament more closely, several important points emerge.

Cover ArtFirst, God hasn’t forgotten the other nations of the earth. In fact, the reason that God chooses to work with Abraham’s family is to bless all the nations of the earth (Gen. 12:3). Today, people are elected to political office with the idea that these elected officials will work for the good of everyone. Similarly, Abraham’s family is elected for the good of the whole world.

Second, we don’t earn election. God didn’t choose Israel because Israel was the best nation on earth. To the contrary, Israel was a group of slaves. Here’s what we find in Deut. 7:6-8: “The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on earth to be his people, his treasured possession. It was not because you were more numerous than any other people that the LORD set his heart on you and chose you—for you were the fewest of all peoples. It was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath that he swore to your ancestors, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (NRSV). God loves picking the poor and weak over the rich and powerful.

Third, the elect are held to higher standards than the rest of the world. After God talks about choosing Israel in the passage just cited, God insists that they carefully obey the laws given specifically to them (Deut. 7:9-11). Later, when God judges Israel alongside other nations, the chosen people are held to much higher standards (see Amos 1-2).

Fourth, God doesn’t punish a nation like Egypt because it lacks election. God punishes them for pervasive and horrendous evils. Egypt gets its just deserts because it thought slavery was okay (Deut. 26:6-8).

Fifth, God promises that if Israelites sin like other nations, they will suffer the same fate. Election won’t protect them (see Lev. 18:24-30).

Finally, God repeatedly commands Israel to love those who aren’t among the elect (see Exod. 22:21; 23:9; Lev. 19:33-34; Deut. 10:17-19).

Much more could be said about this topic. (To see how I treat Israel’s wars—a topic often discussed alongside election—see chapter 5, especially pages 79-82 of This Strange and Sacred Scripture.) But even from the brief treatment here, it’s obvious that election doesn’t mean Israel gets a blank check to do whatever it wants. Election doesn’t mean God only cares about Israel. Election means that Israel has a special role to play in God blessing the entire earth.

——–

Matthew Richard Schlimm

Matthew Richard Schlimm (PhD, Duke University) is assistant professor of Old Testament at University of Dubuque Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. He previously taught at Duke Divinity School and has held various ministry positions in United Methodist churches. He is the author of From Fratricide to Forgiveness: The Language and Ethics of Anger in Genesis and coeditor of the CEB Study Bible.

BA Books & Authors on the Web – May 22, 2015

Cover ArtNijay Gupta, at Crux Sola, reviewed Jeffrey Weima’s BECNT volume on 1-2 Thessalonians.

This is the most thoroughly-researched, soundly-argued evangelical academic commentary to date, and it will serve students and pastors well for a very long time. Weima has spent a lifetime researching these letters and there is hardly a soul in the world…who knows these letters and the history of their study better.

Paul Heintzman’s Leisure and Spirituality was reviewed by Andrew Spencer at Ethics & Culture, Conrade Yap at Panorama of a Book Saint, Casey Hough at The Renewed Church, and Nate Claiborne.

Fred G. Zaspel, at Books at a Glance, reviewed Defending Substitution by Simon Gathercole.

Defending Substitution is a text that will sharpen understanding of this vital doctrine. It is easily accessible for Christian readers generally, but it is a book pastors and teachers especially will read to great profit. When we preach that “Christ died for us! Christ died for our sins!” we desperately want to be clear. And for that clarity Gathercole has rendered a wonderful service to the church.

Defending Substitution was also reviewed by James at Thoughts, Prayers & Songs, and Simon Gathercole was interviewed on The Christian Humanist Podcast.

At An Accidental Blog, Steve Bishop reviewed the recent Paideia volume on Galatians by Peter Oakes.

The Washington Book Review reviewed Matthew Schlimm’s This Strange and Sacred Scripture.

The Brookside Institute recommended Encountering the New Testament by Walter Elwell and Robert Yarbrough, and The Drama of Scripture by Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen.

Justin Taylor shared Albert Mohler’s recommended books list for Preaching Magazine, with Daniel Block’s For the Glory of God and Terry Muck, Harold Netland, and Gerald McDermott’s Handbook of Religion taking the top spots.

 

Reading the Old Testament to Children?

Today we are pleased to share the latest post in our weekly series, Beyond the Book. This month Matthew Schlimm will be discussing how we can approach the Old Testament as a friend in faith, in spite of its strangeness.

*Also, as part of this series we are giving away three copies of This Strange and Sacred Scripture. The winners will be announced at the end of the month, and you can enter here.*

——–

I remember the first time I tried to tell my oldest child Bible stories. As an Old Testament professor, surely I’d have no difficulty coming up with age-appropriate stories that connected with my four-year-old son.

Let’s see, I thought to myself. Even unchurched kids hear about Noah. But then again I don’t want to get into the whole earth drowning to death. Plus, there’s that whole matter of Noah’s nakedness once he gets off the boat. (See Gen. 6:5-9:29.)

Well, I could talk about Samson. But what would be the take-away value? My son should never get his hair cut? That it’s okay to kill Philistines? (See Judg. 13:24-16:31.)

Cover ArtDavid. There’s a good guy. But he does kill Goliath. And chop off his head (1 Sam. 17). And then there’s the whole matter of him having sex with Bathsheba and him killing her husband (2 Sam. 11-12) and, good grief, I need to look elsewhere.

There’s Abraham. But he does lie repeatedly (Gen. 12; 20), have sex with his wife’s slave (Gen. 16), and have weird encounters with God that involve things like a smoking oven moving between bisected animals (Gen. 15).

Who else? Moses. But Moses kills a man (Exod. 2:11-15). And I don’t want my toddler to hear about slavery (Exod. 1:8-14). And all those plagues. I could just imagine my son hearing the sound of rain and needing to double-check that it wasn’t frogs (Exod. 8:1-15).

I eventually gave up on coming up with something on my own. I stuck to the G-rated children’s Bibles that my son had.

But questions remain. What do we do with all these crazy Old Testament stories? Why don’t any of them seem appropriate for children? Why do children’s Bibles need to censor so much!?

While writing This Strange and Sacred Scripture, I came across a quote that Bruno Bettelheim wrote while discussing classic fairy tales:

“Many parents believe that only conscious reality or pleasant and wish-fulfilling images should be presented to children—that they should be exposed only to the sunny side of things. But such one-sided fare nourishes the mind only in a one-sided way, and real life is not all sunny.”

Bettelheim makes these comments, observing that fairy tales speak of horrid happenings. When wolves aren’t demolishing homes, they’re swallowing grandmothers whole. Bettelheim’s point is that fairy tales’ disturbing content can actually be helpful. They prepare children for the threats and dangers the world presents.

The Bible doesn’t talk about big bad wolves. It talks about a big bad humanity. But maybe kids need to learn about that. Perhaps not when they’re four years old. But my son, for example, is now ten. And we recently set out to read 1 Samuel before bedtime. We’ve encountered some pretty messed up stuff, like what Eli’s sons do at the meeting tent (1 Sam. 2:12-25). But I said to him, “How do you think that made God feel?”

“Bad,” he replied.

“Right,” I answered. “So let’s see what God does in the future when people are that disrespectful of God’s house.” As we read on, we talked about how God’s house stopped being at Shiloh. God moved elsewhere.

My son is into it. He’s learned that religious leaders can do evil things—and God opposes those things. In a world filled with scandals, that’s a good message for him to know.

And maybe when he’s older, he’ll be better equipped for the harsh realities that life no doubt will present to him. If he one day learns of a pastor who does something awful, maybe he’ll emerge with his faith intact. I want him to know that the Bible is God’s gift to us not only in peaceful moments when everything comes together, but also in disturbing times when everything falls to pieces.

——–

Matthew Richard Schlimm

Matthew Richard Schlimm (PhD, Duke University) is assistant professor of Old Testament at University of Dubuque Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. He previously taught at Duke Divinity School and has held various ministry positions in United Methodist churches. He is the author of From Fratricide to Forgiveness: The Language and Ethics of Anger in Genesis and coeditor of the CEB Study Bible.

Wrestling with Science and the Bible

Today we are pleased to share the latest post in our weekly series, Beyond the Book. This month Matthew Schlimm will be discussing how we can approach the Old Testament as a friend in faith, in spite of its strangeness.

*Also, as part of this series we are giving away three copies of This Strange and Sacred Scripture. The winners will be announced at the end of the month, and you can enter here.*

——–

“My nanny recently asked me how studying science changed my faith.” My friend told me this late one evening. He works for a university medical center. Although his faith was very robust several years ago, he has recently faced difficulty.

“What’d you tell her?” I asked.

“I had heard growing up that God had overwhelming love for me as an individual. I learned that people had utmost importance to God. But medical school taught me how insignificant humanity is. We’re animals, and we’re mere specks in a universe bigger than we can imagine. How can humanity have a special place in God’s heart if we don’t have a special place in the universe? The earth is a single grain of sand on the bottom of a never-ending ocean.”

Cover Art“I can totally see why those things would shake your faith,” I replied. After pausing, I added, “But I’m not sure that your convictions are that opposed to what the Bible says.”

In the time that followed, I tried to show him ways that the Bible actually supports the point he was making.

The Bible says loud and clear that we’re fairly insignificant. There are few things God hates more than people who think too highly of themselves. God promises to humble the proud (see 1 Sam. 2:1-10). So, the prophet Isaiah talks of God grinding the arrogant into the dust of the ground (see Isa. 2:10-11).

My friend and I also talked about the book of Job. At the end of the book, after Job’s friends try to explain why bad things happen to good people, God shows up. God’s point is simple: humans are puny peons. They shouldn’t expect to figure everything out. They simply aren’t that important. God’s asks, “Where were you when I laid bare the foundations of the earth!?” God gives example after example of things that God can do but humans cannot. “Can you chain up the constellation Orion? …. Can you make it rain?” God goes on, interrogating Job, who eventually manages to reply by simply saying, “I’m tiny. I need to shut my mouth.” (See Job 38:4; 31; 34; 40:4.)

I told my friend that the book of Job makes the exact same point he’s realized from science. The universe isn’t all about us. The solar system doesn’t revolve around us. Humans join animals as creatures. We’re not the Creator. We shouldn’t pretend to be. Science may suggest that humans aren’t that important, but the Bible says the same thing.

I hope that my comments help my friend find the freedom to move forward with his faith. They were inspired, in part, by something I read while writing my book This Strange and Sacred Scripture. In an essay for the book Reading Genesis after Darwin, Jeff Astley writes, “At the very least, evolution teaches us humility. The evolutionary perspective is a reminder that, although we are fearfully and wonderfully made, it is out of the dust of the earth. Both biology and theology insist on a dark side to human nature.” Science may challenge our high view of ourselves, but it doesn’t need to challenge our high view of God.

——–

Matthew Richard Schlimm

Matthew Richard Schlimm (PhD, Duke University) is assistant professor of Old Testament at University of Dubuque Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. He previously taught at Duke Divinity School and has held various ministry positions in United Methodist churches. He is the author of From Fratricide to Forgiveness: The Language and Ethics of Anger in Genesis and coeditor of the CEB Study Bible.

BA Books & Authors on the Web – May 8, 2015

Cover ArtAt Jesus Creed, RJS discusses Israel’s election in light of Walter Moberly’s Old Testament Theology.

Moberly reflects on this election of Israel by God and the sense of wonder and devotion to God that it should bring to the people. God’s election of Israel reflects his love of Israel and this is an end in itself. “It is justified in the way that love is justified – and love is its own justification. … Fundamentally, however, love transcends rationalizations.”

Justin Taylor, at The Gospel Coalition, shared quotes on Apocalyptic Literature and What It Says that We Gather from James K.A. Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom.

At Lonely Vocations, Matthew Forrest Lowe reviewed A New Heaven and a New Earth by J. Richard Middleton.

James, at Thoughts, Prayers & Songs, reviewed Matthew Schlimm’s This Strange and Sacred Scripture.

Galatians and Christian Theology, edited by Mark Elliott, Scott Hafemann, N. T. Wright, and John Frederick, was reviewed at Intelmin Apologetics.

CHOICE connect reviewed Robert Johnston’s God’s Wider Presence.

Conrade Yap, at Panorama of a Book Saint, reviewed Praying with Paul by D.A. Carson.

Chris Woznicki shared a quote on Trinity and Election from George Hunsinger’s Reading Barth with Charity.

Andrew McGowan, author of Ancient Christian Worship, was interviewed on the Aqueduct Project’s GOD Talks podcast.